27 November – 3 December: Motoring Milestones

Discover the momentous motoring events that took place during this week in history …….

150 years ago this week, work on the first underwater highway tunnel in the United States began in Chicago, Illinois, US [30 November 1867]. Over a two-year period, workers and engineers tunnelled underneath the Chicago

River, finally completing the 1,605-foot tunnel at a cost of over $500,000. The tunnel had two roadways, each 11-feet tall and 13-feet wide, and a separate footway 10-feet wide and 10-feet tall. This Washington Street tunnel opened on January 1, 1869, and was invaluable during the evacuation during the Chicago fire in 1871. Originally built of masonry with one lane for pedestrians and 2 lanes for horse-drawn traffic, by 1884 it was leaking and had been closed. In 1888 the West Chicago Street Railroad leased the tunnel. If they repaired it and built a vehicle bridge they could use the tunnel exclusively for cable car service. Construction began in 1888 and the tunnel was reopened August 12, 1890. The reversing of the Chicago River in 1900 lowered the water level and exposed the roof of the tunnel in the riverbed. Several ships ran aground on it, damaging the roof. In 1904 the Federal government declared it a hazard to navigation, it was closed on August 19, 1906. A wider, deeper concrete replacement was built under the original masonry. The approaches were deepened to a new lower tunnel level. The grades were aligned for the cars to enter from a shallow subway just below street level. The subway was not built, concrete ramps raised the tracks up to street grade. George W. Jackson was the contractor for rebuilding the tunnel. The tunnel reopened for electric streetcar service on January 29, 1911 and was in use until the end of streetcar service 1953. By 2013 both approaches had been covered……. 120 years ago this week, the world’s first 2-wheeled motorcycle race was held on an oval track at Sheen House, Richmond, Surrey, England [29 November 1897]. The race distance was over one mile and was won by Charles Jarrot in a time of 2mins 8 seconds riding a Fournier……..110 years ago this week, the first exclusive show for motor trucks opened in Chicago, US with 29 exhibitors [30 November 1907]……100 years ago this week, the Quebec Bridge, the world’s largest cantilever, 1800 ft between the piers and 3239 ft overall, over the

St Lawrence River, was opened to traffic, at a cost of 87 lives and $Can 22,500,000 [3 December 1917]. The bridge accommodates three highway lanes (none until 1929, one until 1949, two until 1993), one rail line (two until 1949), and a pedestrian walkway (originally two); at one time it also carried a streetcar line. It was declared a historic monument in 1987 by the Canadian and American Society of Civil Engineers, and on January 24, 1996, the bridge was declared a National Historic Site of Canada……. 90 years ago this week, the Ford Motor Company began a massive advertising campaign in advance of the introduction of the Model A scheduled for December 1927 [28 November 1927]….. several days later, [2 December 1927] the first Ford Model A was unveiled in New York City’s Waldorf Hotel and in 35 other cities around the US, Canada and Europe. Powered by engine 40 hp a water-cooled L-

head inline 4-cylinder with a displacement of 3.3 litres, it was the first Ford to use the standard set of driver controls with conventional clutch and brake pedals, throttle, and gearshift. Previous Fords used controls that had become uncommon to drivers of other makes. The Model A’s fuel tank was situated in the cowl, between the engine compartment’s fire wall and the dash panel. It had a visual fuel gauge, and the fuel flowed to the carburettor by gravity. A rear-view mirror was optional. In cooler climates, owners could purchase an aftermarket cast iron unit to place over the exhaust manifold to provide heat to the cab. A small door provided adjustment of the amount of hot air entering the cab. The Model A was the first car to have safety glass in the windshield Phaeton sold for $395.00 and the Tudor Sedan for $495.00. Such was its popularity that the lag between cars available and orders reached 800,000 by the spring of 1928…….. 60 years ago this week, the first spade of dirt was turned on the tract of land that would become the Daytona International Speedway [27 November 1957]. After nearly five years, the red tape had been cleared to proceed with the construction of the world’s most modern racing facility……. 40 years ago this week, the new Arrows F1 team moved into their home in Milton Keynes, England [28 November 1977]……. 30 years ago this week, a young man in Somerset (England) tried seven times to kill himself following a row with his girlfriend [27 November 1987]. He threw himself in front of four cars, and jumped under the wheels of a lorry. He tried to strangle himself and jumped from a window. The real victims were a driver of one car who suffered a heart attack, a policeman who injured his back trying to restrain the man, and a doctor who was kicked in the face when the struggling man reached hospital…….The first race was held at Bob Jane’s Calder Thunderdome in Australia [29 November 1987]. The Thunderdome is a purpose-built 1.8 km (1.1 mi) quad-oval speedway located on the grounds of Calder Park Raceway. It was originally known as the Goodyear Thunderdome to reflect the naming rights sponsorship bought by the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company. With its “double dogleg” front stretch and the start/finish line located on a straight section rather than the apex of a curve, the Thunderdome is technically a quad-oval in shape, though since its opening it has generally been referred to as a tri-oval. The track, modelled on a scaled down version of the famous Charlotte Motor Speedway, has 24° banking on Turns 1, 2, 3 and 4 while the front stretch is banked at 4° and the back straight at 6°. The Thunderdome was completed in 1987, but can trace its roots back over twenty years previously when Australian motorsport icon Bob Jane, previous owner of Calder Park Raceway, travelled to the United States and visited the Charlotte Motor Speedway and Daytona International Speedway numerous times to gauge stock car racing’s rise in popularity. With NASCAR getting more air time on Australian television largely thanks to the influence of Channel 7 motorsport commentator and Sydney speedway promoter Mike Raymond, in 1981 Jane struck a deal with Bill France Jr., the head of NASCAR, to bring stock car racing to Australia and plans were laid out for a high banked oval adjacent to the existing Calder Park Raceway. Ground first broke for the track in 1983 and it took four years to complete. It was built at a cost of A$54 million— with Jane personally contributing over $20 million of his own money. Due to the lack of such knowledge in Australia, during construction Jane was forced to bring in engineers from the USA who had experience in building high banked speedway ovals. The Thunderdome was officially opened by the Mayor of the Keilor City Council on 3 August 1987. The first race on the Thunderdome was held just two weeks after its opening, although the track used incorporated both the Thunderdome and the pre-existing National Circuit. It was a 300-kilometre event for Group A touring cars, with John Bowe and Terry Shiel in a turbocharged Nissan Skyline DR30 RS taking first place – to date the only time a Japanese car has won a race held on the Thunderdome. AUSCAR had the distinction of hosting the first ever race to exclusively use the Thunderdome. The race, aptly named the AUSCAR buy soma with mastercard 200, was held a week prior to the Goodyear NASCAR 500. In a shock to the male dominated establishment, 18-year-old female driver Terri Sawyer won the 110 lap race driving a Holden VK Commodore. Sawyer had qualified her Commodore on the front row of the grid and ran at or near the front all day to win from Kim Jane (the nephew of Calder owner Bob Jane), Max de Jersey, Phil Brock and Graham Smith. The top five positions all went to those driving either a VK or VL Commodore. Greg East, also driving a VK Commodore, sat on pole for the AUSCAR 200 with a time of 33.2 seconds for an average speed of 121.34 mp/h. The first NASCAR race that used only the oval was the Goodyear NASCAR 500 held on 28 February 1988 (unlike the “500’s” in US NASCAR racing, the Australian version was only 500 km, or 310 mi – roughly the same distance as a Busch Series race). The race was nationally televised by the Seven Network and was shown in the USA on ESPN. It featured some of Australia’s top touring car and speedway drivers as well as a slew of imports from the Winston Cup, including Bobby Allison (who had won his third Daytona 500 just two weeks earlier in a thrilling finish from his son Davey, giving the Thunderdome race a big publicity boost), Neil Bonnett (who had won the Winston Cup race at the Richmond International Raceway the previous weekend), Michael Waltrip, Harry Gant, Morgan Shepherd, Dave Marcis, Rick Wilson and others. NASCAR’s most famous last name was also represented with 1987 Coca-Cola 600 winner Kyle Petty making the trip down under. In a test session prior to the 1988 Goodyear NASCAR 500, NASCAR’s “King” Richard Petty, the record holder for the most victories in NASCAR history with 200 career wins and the father of Kyle Petty, set an unofficial lap record for the Thunderdome of 28.2 seconds for an average speed of 142.85 mp/h. This was some 6/10ths of a second (3.1 mp/h) faster than Bonnett’s pole time for the race. Bonnett won the race in a Pontiac Grand Prix from Allison in a Buick LeSabre and Marcis in a Chevrolet Monte Carlo. The race saw a heavy crash on lap 80 which took some 6 cars out of the race including Australian’s Dick Johnson (Ford Thunderbird) and Allan Grice (Oldmobile Delta 88) who suffered a broken collar bone after hitting Johnson’s already crashed car at high speed in the middle of turns 3 and 4. Grice, who like Johnson had a Racecam unit in his car and in a NASCAR first was able to talk to the Channel 7 commentary team while racing, had been unable to slow sufficiently due to his car’s lack of brakes which he had told the television audience about only laps before the crash. This was the first time a NASCAR event had been staged outside North America and it proved so popular that many of the same drivers returned for another race held at the Thunderdome that December, the Christmas 500, with three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Johnny Rutherford returning to Australia for the first time since his brief appearance in the 1977 Bathurst 1000 to be part of the driving line up. The Thunderdome also played host to numerous Australian Stock Car Auto Racing (AUSCAR) events until that series ended in 2001. AUSCAR was unique in that the cars were right-hand drive
and based on the Australian Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore. Engines were limited to 5.0L which allowed use of the existing Holden V8 engine and the Ford 302 engine, though until Ford Australia re-introduced the 302 V8 to the Falcon range in 1991, those who raced the Ford XF Falcon used the 5.8L 351 Cleveland V8. Unlike NASCAR, the right-hand drive AUSCARs raced clockwise on oval tracks such as the Thunderdome and the ½ mile Speedway Super Bowl at the Adelaide International Raceway. The most successful AUSCAR driver was Brad Jones who won five straight championships from 1989/90 until 1993/94 in various Commodore’s. Jones also successfully made the transition to NASCAR, winning the Superspeedway Series on his first try in 1994/95. With NASCAR vehicles able to lap the track at better than 140 mp/h (approximately 28 seconds per lap), the Thunderdome is generally regarded as the fastest race circuit in Australia. AUSCARs were generally able to lap the Thunderdome at approximately 126 mp/h (around 32 seconds per lap)…… 20 years ago this week, Michael Schumacher was revealed by Forbes magazine as the fourth-highest earner in world sport [1 December 1997]. His income from F1 of £21.9 million ranked below Michael Jordan (£48.9m), Evander Holyfield (£33.9m) and Oscar De La Hoya (£23.5m)……. It was announced Bernie Ecclestone had struck a deal with Hollywood film star Sylvester Stallone that would lead to the first US-based grand prix for almost a decade [3 December 1997]. “Stallone will film shots of practice sessions and the race itself, which will then be incorporated into film he is making based on F1,” a spokesman said. It was planned to stage the race in 1999 in Las Vegas. In the event the deal failed and it wasn’t until 2000 that a US Grand Prix was held. Writing in the Times, Kevin Eason said: “The plan seemed to be working well and Stallone had become a fixture around the Formula One paddock as he carried out his deep research – or at least as he strode around the paddock a lot with his entourage of burly chums, who all looked like extras from Goodfellas. Trouble was that Sly, as we lovingly came to know him, eventually became such a nuisance that his celebrity appeal waned quite dramatically and it was not long before mechanics did not even look up when he burst into their garages. The fact that Sly also looked about as much like a Formula One driver as Les Dawson and that Americans in the sport are as common as a train arriving on time seemed mere detail. But Bernie, not a man noted for his artistic temperament, had become distinctly nervous about the whole business and politely told Sly that Formula One was not interested in becoming a film star. Not with him, anyway.”……10 years ago this week, best known as a three-time Indianapolis 500 champion, Hélio Castroneves and his partner, professional ballroom dancer Julianne Hough, won the fifth season of “Dancing With the Stars” [27

November 2007].The popular Indy Car driver won out over the runner-up pairing of former Spice Girl Mel B (“Scary Spice”) and her partner, dancer Maksim Chmerkovskiy. Following his victory, Castroneves returned to the Indycar racing circuit, but his good luck did not hold. Although he finished second overall in the 2008 season including a fourth in that year’s Indy 500, by 2009 the racer found himself in federal court, charged with conspiracy, fraud and income-tax evasion in a case where he was eventually acquitted. Castroneves came back to win the Indy 500 again in 2009……. Roger B. Smith (82), former chairman and CEO of General Motors, died in Detroit, US [29 November 2007]. He was the target of Michael Moore’s 1989 film “Roger & Me.” During his term GM’s market share dropped from 45% to 36%…….Ken Tyrrell announced that he had sold his eponymous team to British American Racing [2 December 2007]. The outfit, which entered the championship for the first time in 1968, won three world championships with Jackie Stewart in the 1960s and 1970s, but had not won a race since 1984. “This is the most difficult decision I’ve ever had to take,” Tyrrell said. “I believe it is the right one. The cost to compete in F1 has escalated dramatically and the Tyrrell racing organisation is not satisfied with being relegated to the back of the grid. Our competitive spirit is too high.”

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